Friday, October 26, 2007

Coaching 101

Hockey season begins this week and I will once again be coaching both my son's and daughter's teams. As a public service to parents and players everywhere I offer this testimonial by NHL star Chris Chelios on the important role of youth hockey coaches.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Are You Smarter Than A 4th Grader?

Last week Emma brought home the following extra credit assignment. It was taken from her 4th grade math curriculum. Good luck!

Daniel takes orders at the Marvelous Muffin Bakery. The muffins are packed into boxes that hold 1, 3, 9, 27 muffins. When a customer asks for muffins, Daniel fills out an order slip.
• If a customer orders 5 muffins, Daniel writes code 12 on the order slip.
• If a customer orders 19 muffins, Daniel writes code 201 on the order slip.
• If a customer orders 34 muffins, Daniel writes code 1021 on the order slip.

1) What code would Daniel write on the order slip if a customer asked for 47 muffins? Explain.

2) If the Marvelous Muffin Bakery always packs its muffins into the fewest number of boxes possible, what is a code Daniel would never write on a slip? Explain.

3) The largest box used by the Bakery holds 27 muffins. Daniel thinks the bakery should have a box one size larger. How many muffins would the new box hold? Explain.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Your Health, Your Partner

As some of you may know, my wife FrankenKristin had brain surgery at The Chiari Institute (TCI) in New York two years ago to correct a symptomatic Chiari 1 Malformation. The need for the surgery stemmed from two car accidents that occurred in 2005. To read about that experience, follow the links on the right under the heading “There and Back Again: FrankenKristin’s Tale.” Since then we have been engaged in an ongoing battle with our health insurance company to cover her follow up care as well as a lawsuit against the driver in the first accident. We have yet to address the second.

By all accounts surgery was successful in alleviating nearly all of her Chiari related symptoms. At that time, the doctors indicated that she may also suffer from craniocervical instability given her anatomical structure and the whiplash she experienced. They indicated that this would not be clear until she had made a full recovery from the Chiari surgery.

Two years the Chiari surgery still remains a success However, after countless hours spent expermeinting with various treatment protocols, it is time to determine whether craniocervical instability is the source of her current situation and what we should do about it. Fortunately we had the support of her primary physician as well as the chief of neurosurgery at the flagship hospital in town to return to TCI for assessment. And yet, our insurer denied coverage contending that the diagnostic procedure TCI used is “investigational/experimental” and therefore not covered under our plan. Of course they informed us of our right to appeal. Which we did.

What follows is the statement I wrote last week in response to their decision. Enjoy.

To: Appeal Review Committee
From: Sven
Re: Appeal for coverage on behalf of FrankenKristin

It is on behalf on my wife FrankenKristin that I am writing this letter. Because of her current symptoms she finds it difficult to sit at a desk for any length of time. Since we’ve had insurance coverage through providers other than HealthPartners during the last two and a half years, her medical chart may not provide a complete representation of her current situation. Because of this, I am submitting the following statement in an effort to introduce additional information that should prove useful.

As you know, we are seeking coverage for care that is to be provided by The Chiari Institute in New York. The initial decision to deny coverage was based on the argument that invasive cervical traction is an experimental/investigational procedure. However, it is not solely for the purpose of invasive cervical traction that she is returning to The Chiari Institute, but rather to establish or rule out the presence of craniocervical instability and to determine the possible need for craniocervical fusion.

She had initially scheduled only the invasive cervical traction, due to time constraints and with the hope that she would assess the next steps in conjunction with her primary physician once we returned home - including the possibility of working within the network. However, given her current symptomology, the complexity of her surgical case and the recommendation made by the Chief of Neurosurgery at Regions Hospital it has been determined that The Chiari Institute is the only facility capable of providing care. Her intent to return to The Chiari Institute is based the following factors:

 The Chiari Institute is widely accepted within the neurosurgical community as the leading multidisciplinary center for the management and treatment of Chiari Malformation, syringomyelia, and other related disorders including basilar invagination, craniocervical instability, and spinal cord tethering. Dr. Thomas Milhorat and the team at The Chiari Institute are generally regarded as the foremost experts in the care and treatment of Chiari Malformation and related disorders. Their research and clinical practice represent the leading edge of care and treatment of these disorders and sets the industry standard.

 In 2005 FrankenKristin was diagnosed at The Chiari Institute as having a symptomatic Chiari I Malformation. She underwent posterior fossa decompression and C1/ partial C2 laminectomy the same year to correct this malformation and has found relief from many of the Chiari-related symptoms. Surgery was performed by Dr. Milhorat, Founder of The Chiari Institute and Chief of Neurosurgery at North Shore University Hospital, and Dr. Paulo Bolognese, Assistant Director of The Chiari Institute. Dr. Milhorat prepared a detailed operative report which described the nature of the surgery in the following terms:

“Posterior fossa decompression under color Doppler ultrasonography guidance consisting of a suboccipital craniotomy, C1 and partial C2 laminectomy, dural opening, microlysis of arachnoidal adhesions, bipolar shrinkage of the cerebral tonsils, expansile duraplasty implying autogeneous pericranium, and remodeling of the posterior cranial fossa with a titanium mesh/acrylic cranioplasty.”

 The pre-operative report noted the presence of retroflexed odontoid with pannus formation, Eagle’s syndrome, dilated central canal and possible craniocervical instability. It is for the signs and symptoms consistent with craniocervical instability, which she is currently experiencing, that she intends to return to the Chiari Institute for further evaluation. Craniocervical instability is defined as hyper mobility of the craniocervical junction where the head joins the neck. It is not uncommon to see this complication in patients, post-Chiari decompression, who have also experienced traumatic whiplash - which is the case for FrankenKristin. If the evaluation confirms the presence of craniocervical instability, the indicated surgical treatment is craniocervical fusion.

 Following the direction of her primary care physician, Dr. David Caccamo, she has attempted a series of non-invasive treatments for these symptoms, within the Health Partners network, as well the network offered by our previous insurance provider, in an attempt to achieve adequate and lasting relief. To date none of the prescribed treatments has proved anything other than temporary.

 In an effort to explore additional treatment and possible surgical options, Dr. Caccamo contacted the Health Partners Assistant Medical Director, who consulted with Dr. Mark Larkins, Chief of Neurosurgery at Regions Hospital. Regarding the consultation, Kristin’s medical chart indicates per Dr. Larkins, that she should return to The Chiari Institute for follow up care. Dr. Larkins went on to say that Dr. Milhorat, is a world expert in Chiari Malformations and that there may be nuances in her surgical case that they would be best able to address. Dr. Larkins also felt that to see him or any other Twin Cities neurosurgeon would not be worth her time.

 Earlier this year a preliminary indication of craniocervical instability was made by Dr. Paulo Bolognese of The Chiari Institute through the review of various self-assessment tools as well as results from cervical extraction tests. Based upon these finding he recommended that Kristin return for a complete evaluation to establish or rule out the presence of craniocervical instability and the possible need for craniocervical fusion.

 In 2005 Dr. Mihorat presented research at the annual conference of the American Syringomyelia Alliance Project (1) where he highlighted the frequent occurrence of craniocervical instability in Chiari I Malformation patients and identified the proper course of diagnosis and treatment - before and after decompression. In that presentation he explains that craniocervical instability, which can occur post-decompression, is generally not provable by radiographic studies and that the only definitive diagnosis is through invasive cervical traction.

 According to The Chiari Institute, invasive cervical traction is a definitive test for establishing the diagnosis of craniocervical instability with functional cranial settling. The goals of invasive cervical traction are 1) to establish or rule out the diagnosis of craniocervical instability with functional cranial settling; (2) to identify patients who do not require craniocervical fusion, thereby avoiding an unnecessary surgical step; (3) to identify patients who are potential candidates for craniocervical fusion - in extraction and (4) to acquire precise radiographic and extraction weight measurements that can be reproduced at the time of the craniocervical fusion to maximize the likelihood of optimal outcome. It is policy at The Chiari Institute that all patients with clinical suspicion of craniocervical instability with functional cranial settling undergo invasive cervical traction prior to surgery.

 In determining the diagnosis of craniocervical instability, the presence of retroflexed odontoid with pannus formation combined with the previous posterior fossa decompression and C1/partial C2 laminectomy, complicate the surgical case to the degree that only someone with an expert level of experience with these conditions as well as intimate knowledge of her anatomical structure and previous surgical history should be considered. While it has been argued, albeit incorrectly, that invasive cervical traction is an investigation/experimental procedure, craniocervical fusion is not. Performing a fusion to address craniocervical instability is commonly accepted across the neurosurgical community. The use of invasive cervical traction by The Chiari Institute is an essential tool in establishing not only the need for surgery but also in acquiring precise indicators that can be reproduced at the time of surgery to maximize the likelihood of optimal outcome.

 Given the factors surrounding her previous posterior fossa decompression and C1/partial C2 laminectomy, the level of expertise and clinical success rate at The Chiari Institute, the nuances of her surgical case including the presence of a retroflexed odontoid with pannus formation, as well as the endorsement and referral of the Chief of Neurosurgery at Regions Hospital, it is clear that her current situation indicates that The Chiari Institute is the only facility capable of offering the proper diagnosis and treatment.

As you can imagine, each day is more difficult than the last. Up until the last few years, FrankenKristin has always enjoyed a physically active lifestyle and has been a role model for our children by actively engaging with them and promoting their enjoyment of physical health. Her current symptoms have left her unable to pursue most physical activity with our children. She experiences severe, sometimes debilitating pain almost daily which affects not only our family, but her work as well. She has been a Social Worker at Regions Hospital for almost 9 years, a career she truly loves. Although the job is challenging, and rewarding it is increasingly more difficult to make it through each day as her pain becomes more and more unbearable. Even though she is an on-call employee she very rarely accept extra shifts, as the pain at the end of each work day is prohibitive.

She has pursued and made a good faith effort to follow a course of pain management and physical rehabilitative treatments within the network, and now believes, with the support of nearly every medical professional she has seen, that it is appropriate to return to The Chiari Institute for further assessment and treatment. We acknowledge that insurance providers do not make these decisions lightly and yet we remain hopeful that she may secure the coverage necessary to restore her health. The prospect of traveling across the country for yet another surgical procedure is not easy for us, as it will require once again disrupting our lives and leaving our children behind. However, the potential for improved functioning and reduced pain will offset any short-term inconvenience. We pray that HealthPartners will provide the approval and coverage necessary for her treatment and future healing.

We appreciate your attention in this matter. Please contact me if you require additional information.



(1) A video of the presentation can be found on The Chiari Institute website: Click on Ehlers-Danlos Conference.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Voyage To The Bottom Of The Tub

My son is now old enough to take a bath on his own. Sort of. He still requires some supervision and, since we prefer to keep the bathroom floor dry, assistance reaching the removable spout when washing his hair.

Typically, when it is his turn to take a bath, we let him get in and play for a while before washing his hair and helping him finish up. After all, he may be a big mature 8 year-old at school but he’s not above a few bath toys and some time to goof around in the safe confines of his own home.

Last night FrankenKristin drew his bath and left him to his own devices while I finished cleaning up the kitchen and helping his sister with her homework. After a time, I went to check on him and noticed that he only had one item with him in the tub. However, instead of the typical, action figure, squirt gun, floating dinosaur, or boat made of Legos, he had what looked like a large plastic cylindrically-shaped test tube type thing. Where it came from and how it got in the bath tub I have no idea.

Upon seeing this object in his hand my first thought was, “I hope he doesn’t put that thing on his penis.” The thought had not even completely formed in my head before he proudly exclaimed, “Look Dad, my winkie has a submarine!” At which time proceeded to join the two objects, submerging them both underwater. All the while making one of those “VRRRSSHHRRROOM!!” sounds that is apparently customary for large underwater vessels.

The dictatorial father in me would have scolded him for such lewd behavior. Or I could have left him filled with embarrassment by informing him that his is hardly large enough to be called a submarine. I might have even reminded him the more accurate euphemism is torpedo. Instead I simply looked at him and said, “Be careful, you don’t want to get that thing stuck in there.”

I turned to walk away and resisted, with every fiber of my being, the desire to burst out in laughter.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Life, Liberty And The Pursuit Of Smoke

Beginning today, a new law takes effect in MN requiring bars and restaurants across the state to ban smoking inside their establishments. Now all Minnesotans are free to destroy their livers without the additional fear of poisoning their lungs as well. As someone who makes the occasional attempt to sing his way through an evening at said smoke-filled bars, I for one, am relieved. Hopefully, I will no longer be forced to spend my post-gig days on a steady diet of lemon tea and cough drops.

Not surprisingly the “smoker’s rights” crowd is heralding this as an affront to the basic civil liberties upon which this country was founded. Never mind that smoking itself has not been outlawed just the privilege (not the right) of doing so inside a building. Nonetheless the Chickens Little’s are predicting dire consequences for the hospitality industry. To hear them tell it, the fate our entire economy hangs in the balance. How New York City managed to survive after similar restrictions were implemented in that city apparently remains a mystery.

However, in the spirit of congeniality I offer this short story written by Steve Martin which first appeared in the book Cruel Shoes. May it soothe the savage lungs.

The Smokers

He lit the cigarette and smoked it down to the filter in one breath. He silently thanked the Winston Company for being thoughtful enough about his health to include a filter to protect him. So he lit up another. This time he didn’t exhale the squeaky-clean filtered smoke, but just let it nestle in his lungs, filling his body with that good menthol flavor. Some more smokers knocked on his door and they came in and all started smoking along with him.

“How wonderful it is that we are all smoking”, he thought.

Everybody smoked and smoked and after they smoked they all talked about smoking and how nice it was that they were all smokers and then they smoked some more.

Smoke, smoke, smoke. They all sang “Smoke That Cigarette” and Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” Then the smokers smoked one more cigarette and left him alone in his easy chair, about to relax and enjoy a nice quiet smoke. And then his lips fell off.

P.S. On Saturday we will bury FrankenKristin’ uncle. He died last week of lung cancer after 60+ years of smoking.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Lucky In Love

Today is Sven and FrankenKristin’s 13th wedding anniversary. I know, 13 is supposed to be an unlucky number but given everything we’ve been through the last two years it seems that our luck has got to improve sometime. Besides, FrankenKristin was born on the 13th so if she was doomed I would have known a long time ago. I think.

In thinking about what to get her as a gift I found that the traditional gift for a 13th anniversary is lace. Sure, I get her a Teddy, stocking or some other fancy lingerie but what difference would that make? It all looks the same lying on the floor next to the bed. And frankly, a table cloth or handkerchief is just not that romantic.

The modern alternative is fur. Right. Like she would wear fur. I suppose I could have saved all of the hair they cut off before her brain surgery and made a nice muffler or stole but I guess I wasn’t thinking that far ahead. And no matter how much she and the kids beg we’re not getting another animal,.

Flowers are out. hollyhocks, the traditional 13th-year flower are out of season and roses are just to…predictable.

I also checked a few websites advertising “creative” and “unique” ideas for showing your wife how much you love her. I’m sorry but making her dinner, helping the kids with their homework, washing her car and telling her that I love her, is neither creative nor unique. They are the things one should be doing anyway. You can’t take credit for stuff you should be doing anyway.

I also thought about re-posting last year’s anniversary message or my Valentine’s Day post from a couple of years ago but frankly, that’s just lazy.

So here I am, 13 years married, two beautiful kids, a wonderful home and job, and great in-laws. I have just about everything I guy could ask for (well there is one more thing, but that can wait until the kids go to bed) and yet I can’t think of a “creative” or “unique” way of saying it. And yet I couldn’t be happier. Maybe that’s why too many couples get divorced. They grow disillusioned and fail to see beauty when things become ordinary.

Happy Anniversary, FrankenKristin. I love you. What time are we putting the kids to bed?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I caught these two hanging around outside my window. They must be educated fleas.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mars vs. Venus

The difference between Sven and FrankenKristin:

I only have one item on my "Honey Do" list.

Friday, September 07, 2007

How's Your Sister

My sister, the breast cancer survivor, recently sent out this update. I thought I might share it with you.

I know I have mentioned to some of you before my feelings on finding out I had breast cancer, but I would like to share with all of you that I have never believed that God gave me cancer or do I believe that God allowed me to have cancer. I do believe that God gave me a hug strategically delivered by (my son) Jacob that led me to find the lump so that I could find it early and get it out. God gently reminded that my mom had breast cancer, my aunt had breast cancer and 5 of my maternal great grandmother's sister's had breast cancer. I took those reminders and decided I should not wait until my yearly exam in August with my doctor to have the lump checked out.

And on that note, it is with most excitement that I SHOUT, "I am done with chemotherapy and I am now in the group that has an 85-90% chance of survival rate!!!." The last drug of Taxol was very manageable. My eyebrows and eyelashes thinned more. And I did experience some bone and joint pain usually 2-3 days after chemo for 2-3 days. It was usually mild during the day but hurt a little more when I would lie down at night. (nothing a little Vicadin wouldn’t take care of…) Oh but I could do without the hot flashes.

I will be returning to work on September 13th so I could use a little prayer that my transition back to work, getting up early, getting the kids ready, myself ready and everyone off to school, daycare and work with as little screaming as possible would be appreciated. I have gotten quite used to my 8-10 hours of sleep and very casual clothes.

This where I feel like I am giving my award speech...
Throughout this experience first and foremost I am grateful to God for blessing me with the most amazing man for me in my husband. I know that Jason's love for me has deepened during this journey, he is keeping his promise he made 8 years ago of "in sickness and in health". And when he looks me at me, I feel as beautiful to him today as the day we married. For my beautiful children who just love me because I'm their mommy. For my parents and parent in laws whose smiles of joy that greeted me the day I got out of surgery represented the epitome of unconditional love. For my sisters, brother, sister in laws and brother in laws who inspire, love and make me laugh. For Stephanie and Katie who organized dinners and kept my family well fed. To my sister Dianna for doing the 3 Day Breast Cancer Walk and our Goby's co-workers and customers who donated $2300 for her sponsorship. To my bosum buddy and breast cancer survivor of one year, Sandy who lifted my spirits and kept me encouraged. For my aunts, uncle, cousins, elementary, high school, UMD, softball, Goby's, US Bank, Station 4 B shift and wives, St. Paul firefighters, SJV and daycare friends and friends I have met along my 37 years, you have reminded me of the precious gift of friendship, and the kindness and generosity that goes along with it. You all have truly defined one of the greatest bible verses, 1 Corinthians 13 "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love."

Surgery and chemotherapy has taught me to become a little less vain and I have learned that hair and breasts do not define beauty or femininity. I know I am loved by you all for not what I look like on the outside but rather how I impact your life through my actions and words. Although, I did have a little bit of a struggle with the hair loss initially (oh who am I kidding, it's still a bit of struggle today) BUT, health is more important than vanity. And in the words of Jason again, "your hair will grow back, you’re doing the chemo so the cancer doesn't" (This does not mean however, that I will be skipping out on reconstruction… there is a reason God gave some people skills in plastic surgery).

And finally, this time I am early. Ladies, here is your reminder to please perform your monthly self-breast exam. If any of you ever finds something in your breasts that you think is suspicious, my recommendation is to get it checked as soon as possible and urge your doctor to have it checked by mammogram. I also strongly encourage you to have your baseline mammogram by the age of 35. Remember "early detection, early cure". Life, health, family, friends and faith are precious don’t ignore what your body is telling you out of fear.

Be strong. Love and peace to you all,

Monday, September 03, 2007

You're How Old?

Today is my birthday. Am I supposed to feel different?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Three Nice Days For A Walk

My youngest sister, who doesn't get nearly the credit she deserves, recently joined 2,500 of her closest friends in the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Twin Cities Breast Cancer Three Day. Her group alone raised over $10,000. Learn more here.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Question Of The Day

Why is it that MN Twins center fielder Torii Hunter only hits home runs when the team has a huge lead? Rarely, if ever do his homers factor in the final score.

Can you say "Over-rated?"

Monday, August 06, 2007

I Get A Kick Out Of You

Soccer Association Fee: $60
Cleats (used): $14.99
Shin Guards (used): $9.99

Playing against your best freind: Priceless

Mine is the one in green.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Concrete and Barbed Wire

In light of recent events I'm beginning to wonder why we encourage nursery school children to sing songs about bridges falling down. There is nothing pleasant about that.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Blonde Wigs and Double Ds

My sister has reached the halfway point in here chemotherapy treatment. Last week she sent out this mid-term assessment. Some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent.


I know it has been a while since I have sent an update on how I have been feeling and how the chemotherapy is going, so I thought it was time to send out another update... (it's a long one)

As of this afternoon, I am finished with the first chemo drug. I actually tolerated the chemo very well. I had one bad week, a week after my second chemo, which in my opinion really was a result of a side effect of a side effect.

I thought I was mentally prepared to relinquish my high school title of "Best Hair" but, on Sunday, June 17th my hair was combing out in big strands. I knew it had been thinning so I decided to hold off on the washing of my hair. Monday, I washed my hair and I had a lot of hair in my hands by the time I was done. Then I tried to comb while it was wet and it was a very depressing moment. I decided I had to get rid of it. Compliments of my friend and stylist of many years, we made it through the shaving of my head with only welled up eyes. Playing around with hats and wigs for the next few days and trying to avoid mirrors like the plague as well as dealing with the humidity, I developed a sinus headache and then caught a stomach virus bug for 36 hours. But by Sunday evening June 24th, I was feeling like my old self again (minus the boobs and hair, hee-hee).

I am actually quite comfortable now, in just wearing a engineer type baseball hat. And I have been so comfortable around the house not wearing anything on my head at home that I have been scaring the neighborhood kids a little. (running outside or answering the door with nothing on my head, not even realizing I am not wearing anything, I am working on the title of the scary lady that lives on the corner) However, I finally received my blonde wig that I have been waiting for and looks a lot like the short haircut, I got, compliments of my sister Dianna ( she didn't cut it) in May. I never would have thought, I could pull off a short sassy haircut but I loved it!!! Now it won't take me as long to grow my hair back ( I say that now...).

Also, due to the support, research and funding of organizations such as the Komen Foundation, scientists have been able to discover 2 known mutations (BRAC1 & BRCA2) and are working on 2 more that are genetically inherited that significantly increase a woman's lifetime risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer as well as a very slight increase for men to develop breast and certain other cancers.

At my second chemo treatment, I learned that I carry a mutation in the BRCA 1 gene. So, if there was any hesitation in my mind about my decision to do a bilateral mastectomy, after meeting with a Cancer Geneticist, I no longer have any regrets or uncertainty. (the bilateral mastectomy greatly reduces my risk for recurrence) I will also be removing my ovaries in the near future as it no longer serves a purpose for me and it will decrease my risk of ever developing ovarian cancer to about 4% and it also reduces my risk of recurrence of breast cancer.

Fortunately, I have responded extremely well to the anti nausea drugs I get in my IV during chemo and a drug I take the day of and 2 days after chemo. I still exercise 4-5 days a week (lighter workouts in the week after chemo) and since I don't experience any nausea I am able to eat everything I was able to before I started chemo. I don't know exactly what to expect with the next treatment of Taxol. I know what they tell me, but they also told me that women my age don't tend to do so well during chemo. This new drug doesn't really have the nausea side effects but can cause your bones and joints to ache and my doctor told me that people that don't get nausea with the drug I am now, tend to experience more aching on Taxol. I am going with, I will tolerate this drug just like I did the last one.

I know your prayers, love, cards and meals are what helped me through the first round, so of course it will help me through the next. I will be done with my chemo on September 6th. Just in time to enjoy all the fun of back to school, my youngest son's birthday, my sister in law's wedding showers and wedding in October, which we are all in, (I think I will borrow my mom's 500cc implants to fill out the dress) and the joyous holidays. And my Christmas Carol this year will be, "all I want for Christmas is some Double D's" j/k (I hope to schedule my reconstruction sometime in November, I am window shopping right now for the right size, hee-hee)

I am abundantly blessed to have each one of you in my life. You have all reminded me of the way God brings us love, compassion, generosity and kindness delivered by family and friends. Your words of encouragement and hope, keep me positive and renew my strength. From the depth of my heart and soul, I am forever grateful and thankful for the way each one of you in your own individual way have brightened my day and have helped me to find joy and inspiration during this speed bump. And the hubby tells me that I am a MAC truck.

Love and hugs,
Sven's Sister

PS: To all the ladies in the crowd, I know I am a day late but yesterday was the 11th and as your KARE 11 "Buddy", here is my reminder to do your self breast exam. Feel 'em up girls!!!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Pray For Us Sinners

Dear Mr. Pope,

I read an article in the paper today regarding your recent statement reasserting the primacy of the Catholic Church and claiming that all other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches. From one Catholic to another, I may as well be the one the one to tell you - that's a bunch of nonsense.

Although we may claim to trace the lineage of our bishops back to Peter, we don’t necessarily have direct access to heaven. It’s this exact sort of rhetoric that causes people to hate Catholics. After, the priest-sexual-abuse scandal, the last thing we need is more animosity.

Your claim that the Catholic Church is "the only means to salvation" must have come as quite a shock to many good and decent people - including Jesus and his mother. I'm sure you have heard, but they were Jews. Not exactly the type of people you seem to be including in your "Church".

After I read the article I spent some time looking through the Gospels as well as most of the New Testament. I couldn't find any mention of Jesus asserting the primacy of the Catholic Church anywhere. In fact, I don't think he even mentioned it. (As an aside, he never said anything about homosexuality either, but that's a subject for a different letter).

Rather, I got the distinct impression that Jesus wasn't a big fan of organized religion. He seemed to spend a great deal of time challenging the leaders of the day, pointing out their hypocrisy and holding them to a high standard. Or in his words, a new covenant - that being one of self sacrificial love and service to others as well as a faithful devotion to God. Which in my estimation is different from blindly following an elected leader and his archaic proclamations.

You went on to say that "Christ established here on earth only one church". Surely you can't be serious? A scholar such as yourself must know that Jesus didn't set out to establish a new "church" as much as reform the existing one. He did create a quite a following though, and eventually a number of faith communities sprang up in the wake of his death and resurrection. However, it wasn’t until the 4th Century when Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and took up the sword for the Holy Roman Empire that the Catholic Church really came into prominence. Sadly, that may have also been one of the worst things to ever happen to the legacy of Jesus. It’s pretty tough to carry the cross when you’re also wielding a sword.

I know you’re not alone though. There are lots of folks, of all religious varieties, who claim to know the true path to salvation. “If you simply believe what I believe you’ll have a guaranteed place in heaven”, they say. While that may prove to be true, it seems to me that the world could do with a little more humility. Particularly on the part of Christians. If we spent less time talking about Jesus and more time acting like him we may actually begin to experience the Kingdom of God here on earth.

Meanwhile, I’ll be praying for you.

Together, humbly, in Christ,


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sven's Personal Mailbag

From the mailbag…

“Hey Sven,

What have you been up to lately?”

Well, let’s see…

-School let out at the beginning of June so I have been spending most of my days goofing around with the kids.

- FrankenKristin and I caught some fish.

- My nephew Taylor graduated from high school. A week later he turned 18.

- My grandmother returned from AZ and finally made her way back to the cabin. She found a new friend in Samantha.

- Emma finally scored a goal in soccer. She scored another a few games later.

- FrankenKristin went to South Carolina to watch her nephew graduate from boot camp. Last time she went away with her sister she came back with a tattoo. This time she returned unscathed.

- My middle sister seems to be holding up fairly well after two rounds of chemo. The same cannot be said for her hair.

- I painted the garage.

- The kids were in the local parade.

- My aunt had brain surgery. Unlike FrankenKristin, her’s was to remove a tumor. Like FrankenKristin she will be leave with a titanium plate in her head.

- Luke had finally learned how to blow bubbles.

- We said goodbye to my oldest sister and her kids yesterday. They are moving to Sitka, AK. to join her husband who just finished the Alaska Law Enforcement Training Academy. According to Mapquest, Sitka is 2576.29 miles from St. Paul. Or 66 hours, 14 minutes by car. I don’t think they will be asking my folks to babysit any time soon.

- I haven’t been on the computer much. The weather is too nice.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

That Was Weird

Before there was Green Day, before there was Nirvana and Pearl Jam, there was Hüsker Dü. The band to which the entire genre owes its undying allegiance.

They were from Minneapolis. My sister graduated with the drummer. They rock.

Enjoy one of the more awkward moments of their career appearing on the Twin Cities-based Good Company show in 1986. I don't think the old ladies in the audience quite knew what to make of it.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


If I have to listen to one more dod gamn baby boomer tell me what a great album Sgt. Pepper is I might go postal!

I don't care whether you think it was the defining moment in rock 'n' roll history. (It wasn't).

I don't care how many times you sat in you mom's basement trying to name all of the people depicted on the cover.

I don't care how long you were able to hear the final chord.

And for Goodness sake, PAUL'S NOT DEAD!!! (His career is another story).

Monday, June 04, 2007

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Any Suggestions?

My sister starts her 16-week cycle of chemotherapy today? What does a person say to wish her well? I couldn’t find a Happy Chemo! section at the local Hallmark store and somehow wishing her luck doesn’t seem right either, (Good luck purposely injecting your body with toxic chemicals!).


Friday, May 25, 2007

Question Of The Day

When it comes to addressing the inadequacies of public school funding there are those of a certain political ideology who are fond of exhorting that the answer isn’t simply “throwing money at the problem”. This argument is used by people attempting to demonstrate their fiscal responsibility, when in actuality it is most often a thinly veiled disguise for a much more sinister agenda. Namely, the dismantling of public schools and the demonization of those across the political aisle.

Never mind the fact that we have never actually tried throwing an adequate amount of money at schools. In fact in many cases, such as special education services, the federal government doesn’t even fund its own mandates. Instead schools are expected to meet an ever increasing list of state and federal standards and outcomes in order to prove that they are worthy of a pittance that rarely comes close to meeting the inflationary cost of doing business.

Schools that fail to meet adequate yearly progress are subject to federal administrative takeover and loss of funding. Students at those schools are allowed the opportunity to transfer to another school in hopes of a better education - as if shifting students rather than fixing the system is the solution. If circumstances persist, underperforming schools may be closed all together.

I was thinking about this as I heard the news that Congress recently passed a $100 billion appropriation to fund the continual occupation of Iraq. With public support for the occupation at an all time low, an increasing number of retired military personal expressing concern over the President’s handling of the situation and a cumulative price tag of nearly half a trillion dollars, I would expect the so-called fiscal conservatives to be lining up like a Greek Chorus in defense of our precious tax money.

Ad yet, nothing.

Where are the calls for standards and outcomes? How about a performance-based funding strategy with allocation directly tied to the number of liberated Iraqis? If military administrators are unable to maintain a satisfactory level of competence, will enlisted personal be allowed to transfer to a different assignment? Will those failing administrators be replaced? At some point, if the situation doesn’t improve, they must surely plan to shut things down altogether. Afterall, its about supporting the troops, and they deserve better than what they've been given.

In recent government history, making "tough choices" has become code language for budget cutting. Whose making the tough choices now? For that matter, whose even asking the questions? If school administrators demanded money for their operations the way the President does they would be hung in effigy by the self-appointed economic watchdogs. And then they wouldn't get the money.

How long until the fiscal conservatives declare that simply “throwing money at the problem” in Iraq will no longer make a difference?

The silence is deafening.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Uff Da! (Corrected Spelling*)

Last night we catered a Syttende Mai party at the home of the Royal Norwegian Consulate General on the shores of Lake Minnetonka. The party consisted mostly of old, silver-haired white people. There were a few token brunettes and one young woman who looked ambiguously ethnic but for the most part you knew darn well you were in financially secure confines of the Western Suburbs.

While it’s a long-running joke in Minnesota that Scandinavian Food is hopelessly bland, that myth is not entirely accurate. Few things in the world are more flavorful, or more pungent, than that Nordic favorite, Pickled Herring. One wiff is sure to make the eyes water, a small bite can send the mouth into spasmodic puckering the likes of which only Jim Carey could imitate. It may not be good flavor but it is flavor nonetheless.

Needless to say Herring was in abundance last night, and was one of the more popular items on the menu along with Smoked Salmon, Pasties and several blocks of cheese the size of small boulders. These may not have been the most refined palates in the world but they loved their fish, and ate it with abandon.

The essence and bouquet of Pickled Herring aside, many of the party guest found the Seared Tuna to their liking, until their taste buds registered the accompanying Wasabi Paste. That's when the sirens went off.

"Uff Da!"

"Oh geez, dat has a little bite to it, den!"

"Lena, get me some water, der!"

Fortunately the guest were able to neutralize the sensation with Boiled Potatoes and Deviled Eggs.

* FrankenKristin, who excels at revealing my numerous flaws, alerted me to the correct spelling of Uff Da. Damn Danes!!! After all these years they are still trying to control us Norwegians.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Well, The Truth Is...

Someone told me the other day that they no longer participate in the Susan G. Komen Foundation Race for the Cure because, as they put it, “the Komen Foundation funds abortion clinics”. The basis for their argument went something like this:

1. The Susan G. Komen Foundation is dedicated to funding research to eliminate breast cancer.
2. Some of the money raised during the Race for the Cure is granted to organizations such as Planned Parenthood.
3. Planned Parenthood is an abortion clinic.
4. A foundation dedicated to breast cancer research should not fund abortion clinics.

In order to strengthen their case against the Foundation the following supporting arguments were made:

1. Although a few studies have questioned the link, research has shown a direct correlation between abortions and breast cancer .
2. Several executives at the Susan G. Komen Foundation make over $90,000 per year.
3. Employees of a non-profit organization shouldn’t make that much money.

Since I am not an expert on, nor have any affiliation with, The Susan G. Komen Foundation I was surprised to hear all these thing and decided to do some investigation.

But first a little history.

The Susan Komen was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1978. Before her death at the age of 36, she asked her sister to do everything possible to bring an end to breast cancer. As a result, The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation (SGKF) was created in 1982. The primary mission of SGKF is to eradicate breast cancer as a life-threatening disease by advancing research, education, screening and treatment.

Research advancement is achieved through relationships with medical and cancer centers throughout the United States, as well as internationally. Treatment and screening programs, primarily funded through the Foundation’s Affiliates, produce affordable treatment and screening for the medically underserved and other target populations. The Foundation’s reach has expanded tremendously since its inception, due in large part to the Komen Race for the Cure Series and other fundraising programs and events.

More than 25 years later, the SGKF is a global leader in the fight against breast cancer and is one of the world’s largest private funders of breast cancer research and community outreach programs. As a direct result of their work, today more than 75% of all women over the age of 40 receive regular mammograms, the single most effective tool for early detection of breast cancer. When caught early enough, the 5-year survival rate is 98%.

In an effort to find out a little bit more I went to the Komen Foundation website and did a search on administrative costs. There I found the 2005-06 Final Audited Financial Statement. It states that in FY 2006 the SGKF listed its total contributions as $228 million. Add to that the interest on investments and the net total revenue came in at just under $243 million.

Expenses were broken into two categories, supporting services and program services. Supporting services included general and administrative costs totaling roughly $21 million, and fundraising costs which were $25 million for a total of $46 million. Program services included $61 million for research, $71 million for public health information, $27 million for health screening services and $13 million for treatment services. The grand total of which is $172 million or almost four times as much as that spent on supporting services.

In fact, if you take the $21 million for administrative cost as a percentage of the total expenses ($218 million) you will find that it makes up slightly less than 10% which is standard practice in the non profit world. While you could argue that a non-profit executive should be driven by altruistic motives, a $90,000 salary is quite small compared to those in for-profit health care.

So what about the claim that the SGKF funds abortion clinic, specifically, Planned Parenthood. There’s more to that story as well.

In addition to funding research, SGKF, working through a network of Affiliates, also funds non-duplicative, community-based Screening, Treatment, and Educational Programs (STEP) for underserved populations. According to the 2005 STEP Report, SGKF awarded 1384 STEP grants in 2005 designed to use proven strategies in serving diverse populations reaching those most in need of screening, treatment, assistance and education. Of those 1384 grants roughly 20 were awarded to Planned Parenthood clinics. A review of the recipient list reveals that not one of those clinics used their STEP grant award to support anything other than programs dedicated to breast cancer. Here is a partial list:

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Glenwood Springs Health Center
Glenwood Springs, CO
-Glenwood Springs Health Center of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM) is committed to ensuring that women of all ages obtain regular breast cancer screenings, with the goal of identifying breast cancer at an early and treatable stage. Our target population is uninsured and underinsured women, Latinas and women otherwise in need.

Planned Parenthood of Idaho
Boise, ID
- Planned Parenthood of Idaho (PPI) will continue to address the need for breast cancer education and screening among low-income women and Latinas in southwestern Idaho. We will continue our breast cancer screening fund, which provides PPI clients having breast abnormalities with referrals and financial assistance for follow-up services with breast cancer specialists in Boise and Twin Falls. PPI will also expand outreach efforts to the Latina community in southwestern Idaho.

Program Planned Parenthood of Northern New York, Inc.
Watertown, NY
-Planned Parenthood of Northern New York (PPNNY) and the State University of New York at Potsdam (SUNY Potsdam) have teamed up to create a campus-based outreach program to provide breast health education and to promote importance of early detection and screening for breast cancer. PPNNY and SUNY Potsdam will offer interactive breast health education workshops and events throughout campus during the academic year. These events are designed to increase awareness of the incidence of breast cancer in young women and to promote positive breast health and the importance of early detection and diagnosis as a means of prevention. The outreach program will reach students in campus housing, in local sororities and throughout the college campus.

Planned Parenthood of Connecticut, Inc.
New Haven, CT
-The South Norwalk Breast Cancer Early Detection Program’s goal is to identify breast cancer in the early stages, while it is still responsive to treatment. The Program works with women who have no insurance or whose insurance does not cover breast cancer screening, and targets women over 40 or women ages 35-39 who have risk factors for breast cancer.

The list goes on but the essence is the same. Not only is Planned Parenthood’s role in the detection and treatment of breast cancer laudable, it is vital. To demonize SGKF for its relationship with Planned Parenthood is a mistake.

As for Planned Parenthood itself, while they do indeed perform abortions, clearly that is not all they do. Regardless of how you feel about abortion, reproductive health care or the racist Eugenics of Planned Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger, the organization has taken on an important role in the fight against breast cancer and it is unfair to simply dismiss it as an abortion clinic while ignoring their other essential services.

Lastly, the Abortion-Breast Cancer connection. For decades, pro-life advocates have attempted to draw a link between abortion or miscarriage and breast cancer. The issue became political in 2002 when the National Cancer Institute posted information potentially linking abortion and breast cancer on its website, despite the lack of evidence. The connection was debunked in 2003 by a panel of international experts put together by the US National Cancer Institute. Those findings were supported recently by and extensive study released by Harvard University. Even Fox News admits that there is no connection between abortion and breast cancer so it must be true.

Ultimately it comes down to this, everyone is entitled to donate to the charities that best fit their values and interests. But those decisions should be based on fact, not anecdote.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Pink Ladies

Today my 36 year-old sister has surgery to remove cancer from her breasts. My mother, a survivor herself, will be by her side. Please think nice thoughts for her.


I saw my sister yesterday afternoon. The surgery was successful. The doctors believe that they were able to remove all of the cancer and did not see signs that it had spread anywhere else in her body. She looked and sounded good as felt incredibly relieved.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Whose Stigma Is It Anyway?

This is in response to a recent post by Atilla The Mom. Please read it here first.


I've been "busy" lately so I haven't had much time to visit. It is interesting to me that this is the post I came back to.

While I won't claim to know a whole lot about Autism or Asperger's syndrome I will say that I have worked with a few identified students in the past 10 years, so I have at least some familiarity. Although one student, a third grader, showed an amazing proficiency at the piano and another an eighth grader, held more than a passing affinity for WWII aircraft neither of these students fell into the category of circus freak, organ monkey or as you so delicately put it, “retard”. Rather, they were all young men (coincidence?) attempting to navigate the already challenging environment of 21st century life with a disability that I don’t think any of them completely understood.

As for their parents, I will say that although none of them came across as sympathy-seeking victims, it was nonetheless clear that each felt at least some sense of skepticism regarding the way the general population viewed their child, and thus them. I believe the general population has an extremely limited understanding as to what Autism is and is not, as you know all too well. Those of us charged with educating students living with Autism are in some ways ahead of the curve in terms of our understanding and yet we too have an enormous learning curve when it comes to how this particular disability plays out in real life.

I remember one young man I worked with named “Ben”. He was a 4th grader diagnosed with Asperger’s, AD/HD and Tourette’s, all for which his parent’s were unwilling to consider medication as a possible tool. Add to that the fact that he was identified as Gifted/Talented and enrolled in a GT magnet school and you can imagine that I had my work cut our for me.

Near the end of the school year it became clear that the everyday routine of 4th grade life was just a bit to structured for his tastes. Eventually the decision was made to provide him with home-based instruction and allow him to finish the school year under the care of his parents. Although I’m a social worker not a teacher, I was the only one who volunteer for the job so I was assigned as his home-tutor.

Four-days-a-week I would go to his house and try as best I could to teach math, reading and science. Half of our time was spent discussing everything other than his school work, while the other half was spent trying to retrain our focus. Week after week went by and my sense of hopelessness increased with each lesson. I often left feeling as though I had failed in attempting to connect with this young man (let alone teach) and had wasted his and his parent’s time.

On our last visit Ben gave me a card that he had made on the computer. The cover featured a bloody skull with the eyeballs hanging out and a huge axe slicing a diagonal gash the sizes of a small canyon across the top of the head. On the inside he had written, Thanks! in blue crayon. It was at that moment I realized he had been with me all along. He wasn’t some possessed miscreant hell-bent on making our time together as miserable as possible. The trouble wasn’t that I couldn’t connect with his but that I was unable to see how I had. Clearly I was the one with the problem not him.

Which gets me to the part about Stigma.

As a school social worker I had been trained to be wary of any expression of violence, death or destruction on the part of our students. This was right around the time of the Columbine High School shooting so we were told to pay close attention whenever a student demonstrated any fascination with the killing. The card naturally threw my colleagues into a collective tizzy over the “horrendous” depiction. Many a hand was wrung at “what else this child might be capable of” and the sort of home environment his parents provided. Not just a few judgments about them were passed. I however knew that in his own twisted way, he was truly and sincerely offering gratitude in a manner that made sense to him. After all, if he’s delighted by the sight of decapitated cartoon heads, shouldn’t everyone be?

That was the last time I ever saw him as I took new job later that summer. By now I would imagine he’s graduate from high school. I hope so. Nonetheless, I have no doubt that he and his parents have spent the last decade dealing with all manner of disrespect directed both at him as a person and them as parents. I would guess that at times it could become overwhelming. Even stigma generating.

That’s why I wasn’t surprised to see that an organization would want to eliminate the stigma of having a child with Autism. A little off the mark to be sure, but not an entirely bad goal in and of itself. The question is how are they going to go about doing that? Through lovingly caring for family members and providing them with every opportunity to enjoy the same things from life that all children share? By passionately advocating for the rights of people with Autism and removing barriers to success wherever they may exist? By educating anyone and everyone with the truth about what Autism is and is not? Or by suggesting that autistic children be drowned in the pool out back?

While I’m sure Autism Speaks would deny an outward endorsement of disability-based genocide their goal of “a world where no family has to live with autism” is specious to say the least and speaks volumes as to their true mission. Again, it all comes down what you do with what you are given. AS communications would indicate, as you have suggested, that their aim is self-serving and pity focused. Clearly they seem to be hurting rather than helping the cause of Autism awareness. But I also believe that there is truth to the statement that parents suffer, indeed in a much different way, from the misinformation and stigma of living with, raising and loving a child with Autism.

I can read it in your posts.

Your friend,


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Pray For A Safe Return

For the last few years I have provided guitar accompaniment, alongside the piano and mandolin players, for our church choir. Last weekend I learned that the youngest son of our piano player, a kid I know quite well, was deployed to Iraq this week. I offer this in hopes that he, and the rest of humanity, can get out of this mess alive.

David, Tom, Laurie, this is for you.

Down By The Riverside - Sister Rosetta Tharp

Friday, March 23, 2007

Game On!

This is a video I made of the hockey team I coached this year. My daughter is the one in the maroon jersey.

I Don't Even Know What To Say - Update

It looks like the police may have found their man.

Crystal Brown hopes that her nightmares will stop now that St. Paul police have arrested the man they believe decapitated her therapy dog and left its head in a gift box on her doorstep.

Read more here.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Why I Wish I Could Afford Cable

This goal just wasn't the same on the radio.

Of course I didn't get to see this one either but that was back in 1979.

They were almost identical plays and in both cases featured Minnesota beating North Dakota for a Championship. In 1979 for the NCAA title and 2007 in the WCHA Final Five tournament.

Eat your heart out Ralph Engelstad.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Your Future Is In Your Hand

In an effort to stem the tide of St. Patrick's Day related DWIs, the good folks at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety are employing a new trick to get the attention of drunken young men.

Talking urinal cakes.

The motion activited cakes feature a woman's voice encouraging guys to reconsider getting behind the wheel after tipping a few. They can be found in select bars across the metro area. You can listen to the message here.

Whether it works is anyone's guess. But I will say this, Talking Urinal Cakes would make a hell of a band name.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I Don't Even Know What To Say

This article appeared in the online version of the (other) local paper today. Suffice it to say I'm speechless.

A girl's beloved dog, a grisly nightmare

By Mary Lynn Smith, Star Tribune

Crystal Brown's world was turned upside down a month ago when Chevy, her 4-year-old Australian shepherd mix, didn't come home.

"I told him everything and he never shared any of my secrets," said Crystal, 17, who has had some troubled times in her young life. Chevy was her therapy dog, and she leaned on him for comfort and support.

Two weeks ago, a gift-wrapped box was left at the house where she lives with her grandmother in St. Paul's Rice Street area. Inside the box, Crystal was horrified to find her dog's head.

"This was so cruel," Crystal said Wednesday. "This is one sick, twisted person."

The incident is considered so shocking that the Humane Society of the United States announced Wednesday that it was offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Homicide investigators are looking into the case because of the "implied" terroristic threat, St. Paul Police Sgt. Jim Gray said.

"This was extraordinarily heinous," said Dale Bartlett, the Humane Society's deputy manager for animal cruelty issues. "I deal with hundreds and hundreds of cruelty cases each year. When I read about this case, it took my breath away. It's horrible."

This case, Bartlett said, is far worse than a recent episode in Oshkosh, Wis., where a 49-year-old man decapitated two of his kittens because "they were annoying."

Sending the dog's head to the teenager was a malicious act, Bartlett said. "That level of depravity is beyond belief."

Shirley Brown, Crystal's grandmother, said that Chevy wandered off after she let him out one night in mid-February.

'It was just me and him'

Crystal peppered the neighborhood with "missing" posters, and went door to door with two photos of Chevy in hopes that someone had spotted him. She rode the bus countless times to the St. Paul animal shelter and called there "thousands of times," she said.

"I felt empty," Crystal said. "I couldn't talk to anyone. He was my dog. It was just me and him."

Then Shirley Brown came home one day and found a box wrapped in red paper on her front steps, with batteries taped to the box. "Congratulations Crystal," the note said. "This side up. Batteries included."

Shirley Brown placed the box on her granddaughter's bedroom dresser. "I was surprised and excited," Crystal said. "I thought it was a gift from my cousin."

She tore off the paper and ripped open the box. Inside, she found valentine candy and a black garbage bag. And then she saw her dog's face.

Crystal screamed and ran to the kitchen to find her grandmother: "Is this my dog, Grandma? No! That's not my dog? Is it my dog?"

An isolated incident

Gray said that investigators believe the case is an isolated incident and that the suspect knows the family. "We don't know what the motive would be," Gray said. "It's a terrible thing to do to someone's pet."

Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to call St. Paul police at 651-266-5659.

Chevy, Crystal said, was the best friend she ever had.

"He was more patient than any person I ever met. That dog waited for years for me to get myself together," said Crystal, who began to cry.

"That dog didn't care what I did, what I didn't do ... what anyone did to me. He didn't care about any of that. He just wanted to love me the way I loved him."

Crystal has a new puppy now, another Australian shepherd that she's named Diesel. The puppy's no Chevy. Not yet, anyway.

"Hopefully, he'll be my best friend," Crystal said. Hopefully, he will be my guide through life."

Mary Lynn Smith • 651-298-1550 •

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

His Parents Must Be So Proud

Asshat was a term coined by our good blogger friend Admiral Pooper Scooper to describe persons capable of any variety of ridiculous, disturbing or offensive behavior. Soon after, Attila the Mom created an award given to the most outrageous Asshat each week. Although I realize I may be violating her intellectual property rights by posting this, after reading this article I couldn’t resist.

So it is with great respect, and apologies, that I submit my nomination for Asshat of the Week.

It was reported today in the (other) local paper that a 16-year-old in Cloquet, MN. found it so amusing when he dumped a pitcher of ice water on a 90-year-old nursing home resident in June that he returned and did it twice more, in December and again last month. And then bragged about it to his buddies at school.

In the story the boy is quoted as saying,

“Me and [another teenager] were like, this is gonna be hilarious, 'cause this lady was talking to herself and she was yelling and stuff so we threw it on her," the 16-year-old boy told police, describing the first incident. “She started screaming and freaking out so we thought this was hilariously funny, and we were all talking about it in school and everyone was laughing about it."

Funny?!? Really?!?

Not to those of us with 90-year-old grandmothers. On any other reasonable human being, for that matter. I can’t even begin to count the different kinds of crap that this kid should have kicked out of him.

Fortunately, due some diligent investigation on the part of the nursing home administrator, the kid was charged last week with felony stalking.

For 10 days after the third incident, (the administrator) drove through school parking lots looking for the license plate, finally finding it at the school in Proctor. "The principal knew right away whose car it was," he said. "I told the police, 'Look, I know who that kid is, who his dad is and where the dad works. Do something, because we've got staff and families who are just waiting, and if those kids come back, somebody's going to jump them.'"

The County Attorney will ask the judge next week to certify the boy as an adult which exempts him from certain protections but is an insult to adults everywhere (except maybe Tom Green).

Now I like to think of myself as a forgiving person but I’m finding it really, really hard to muster and compassion for kid. I spent several years developing a community-based Restorative Justice Program in my community and truly believe in the power of forgiveness but, this one pushes me to the limit. I think of my own grandmother and how she might react. And what I might do as a result. Anything short of an Alabama Ass Whuppin' is too good for this turd.

Ask me tomorrow and I may have calmed down a bit. But not today.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

Below is a rerun of last year's Valentine's Day Greeting but since I stand by every word I chose to post it again.


On this Valentine's Day I'd like to list 10 reasons why I love my wife.

10. Kristin is funny!
Whether its the pursed-lips-to-avoid-being-kissed trick, the fake-booger-joke or her appreciation of Spinal Tap and Bizarro, Kristin makes me laugh. I'm particularly grateful that she still plays along with my stupid jokes after all these years.

9. Kristin loves her kids.
Although she originally entertained the thought of parenthood with ambivalence she quickly warmed to the idea about 5 seconds after Emma was born. She is keenly aware of their needs and showers them with affection. She loves them beyond measure and they know it.

8. Kristin is courageous.
Taking her health care into her own hands and traveling halfway across the country to allow a complete stranger to cut her head open takes a bit of courage. I am proud of her for not simply accepting the dismal opinions of local medical professionals and instead taking it upon herself to find the most qualified person possible to diagnose and treat her condition.

7. Kristin is strong.
While she does not feel so lately, her strength is more than just physical. Her spirit over the last two years is the quintessential embodiment of the Serenity Prayer.

6. Kristin loves dirt.
Her passion for gardening is generational and she has done wonderful things to make our small corner of the world more green. Although she may not call it such, gardening is an avocation to which she is truly gifted.

5. Kristin is optimistic.
Even in the face of enormous medical bills and the very real possibility that her symptoms may not improve she continued to believe that everything would work out because everything always works out. From the smallest to the largest, Kristin's glass is always at least half full.

4. Kristin is humble.
Unlike the glory-whore that is me, Kristin is perfectly happy to quietly go about her business, always doing the right thing, always thinking of the needs of others, always going beyond the expected and rarely, if ever, seeking reward or accolade. She may call it shyness but I call it grace.

3. Kristin has wild hairs.
Not on her head, although that is certainly a true as well. Kristin quite often gets what she calls "a wild hair" and will embark on a project that more often than not, involves completely removing, replacing, of renovating some part of our house or yard. Like the proverbial snowball rolling downhill the ideas quickly pick up momentum such that I am usually swept up before I can act as the "voice of reason". Whether it's the striped breezeway, the border garden, the new patio or the kitchen makeover, most, if not all of her wild hairs turn out better than I could have imagined.

2. Kristin is beautiful.
Enough said.

1. Kristin loves me too.
And for that I am the luckiest man alive.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"Wonderful Memories For Your Children"

In my earlier post regarding our backyard ice rink heartsinsanfrancisco was kind enough to leave this comment:

When I lived on Christmas Lake, Excelsior, MN, my kids used to go out on the ice with snow shovels and brooms to make a skating rink. It's great that you were able to make it so smooth. You're building wonderful memories for your children.

Right. Last weekend the kids had a few of their buddies over for a friendly game shinny hockey. Since there was an equal number of boys and girls they chose to form along gender lines and engage in their own little battle of the sexes.

What the boys didn't consider is that the girls are older (and bigger) and that I am their coach. Which means they have repeatedly heard my mantra, "The puck belongs to you. If the other team has it, take it from them!"

All three of the girls show a strong propensity for defensive play and aren't afraid to "mix it up" if necessary. About half way through the game I observed a mad scramble for the puck deep in the corner. During the melee, one of the girls lost her balance and went a little high with the stick.

This was the result.

The offending player offered several apologies and willingly served a two-minute time out. Luke was treated with a few kisses and a cup of hot chocolate. Afterward, he managed to finish the game, this time with a helmet.

Wonderful memories indeed.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Thursday, January 18, 2007

My Lucky Day

Yesterday I was blessed with the good fortune of visiting with a uniformed public servant representing our local law enforcement agency. I was traveling across town for a mandatory meeting and was very near my destination when the officer was apparently alerted to an error in my motor vehicle operation and thus made an urgent attempt to notify me of my oversight. Her need to address me was so great that she employed a series of rhythmically flashing lights to in her attempt to gain my attention.

Once she had safely pulled me aside she approached my automobile and inquired about my schedule for the day and questioned my attention to detail. She administered a quiz on the local migratory customs and provided me with the information I was missing regarding the velocity with which one may legally travel on the adjacent thoroughfare.

In her assiduousness, she also alerted me to the fact that the thin plastic document indicating my permission to operate a motorized transportation device had exhausted its validity on the anniversary of my birth. I acknowledged that I was not aware that my certificate was out of compliance and informed her that the permission granting institution had not availed me of that fact via postal courier, as is the usual convention. She confirmed that the notification practice had ceased some time ago.

After reviewing her electronic records and establishing my status among the otherwise law abiding, she sent me on my way. And fortuitously, did not charge a fee for her services.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Skate Away

I have been waiting all winter for enough snow and cold air to take this picture. I orginally put the rink up in early December. Back then we had about one week of cold weather so we were able to skate a few times. Then it got warm and we didn't get to use the rink for almost a month. Thanks to the plastic liner I was able to keep much of the water contained and as a result we had ice a week before the city rinks. However, last week the temperature dipped enough that we were able to maintain a solid sheet of ice. Sunday night we got about 6 inches of snow that will hopefully stick around for a while. So, if you're in the area, stop by and have a skate.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Hot Enough For You?

Usually, the kids and I like to make a snowman in the front yard every winter. So far, this is the best we've been able to come up with this year. He might have been bigger if it weren't for the selfish snow-hogs in Colorado.

Thanks to Al Gore, Minnesota has had one of the warmest and dryest winters on record. And it's not just us, temps in NYC reached a record 72° over the weekend. In fact, until the last 24 hours, the only thing even close to cold winter weather we have had this season was during the week in December when our furnace went out.

Maybe my parents were right, by leaving the door open too long I am heating the whole neighborhood.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Blogger Pissed Me Off

While I was happily enjoying the dulcet tones of Mr. Billy Idol, I was wooed by Blogger to switch over to the NEW IMPROVED BETA VERSION!!! Blogger promised me it was the best thing since the self-flushing toilet and that by making the change my life would improve in untold ways. What could be better.

So I switched. And then I found out that it was fraught with a number of "known issues" (not to mention all the unkown ones) not the least of which is that only other Beta users could leave comments.


This was KNOWN and still Blogger suckered people into switching leaving them not knowing the known unknowns until you decide to make them known. Known knowns, unknown known, known unknowns...Enough of this Donald Rumsefled crap! The whole point of blogger is to develop imaginary friends and allow them to leave pithy comments on the inane things you have to say. How can this happen if one of the known issues is the inability to leave comments.

I got so damn mad I didn't speak to blogger for several weeks. I'm still a bit surly but I'm slowly getting over it.